A Beginner’s Guide to Exposure, Aperture, Shutter, ISO and Metering

March 14, 2022

Welcome to the AP Improve your photography series – in partnership with BPM – This series is designed to take you from the beginnings of photography, introduce different shooting skills and styles, and teach you how to grow as a photographer, so you can enjoy producing amazing photographs (and videos) , to take you to the next level , whether it’s making money or just mastering your art form.

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Every week you will find a new item so be sure to come back to continue your journey. The beginning may seem basic to some photographers, but it’s an important step to making sure you’re comfortable with your equipment and the basics of photography, as it’s part of the foundations that help create great photographs. , and once you know them, you can play with them and understand other articles in this series.

A beginner’s guide to exposure, including aperture, shutter speed, ISO settings and metering.

What is the exhibition? Understand the exhibition

The camera takes a photo when you press the shutter button, but did you know that the exposure of the photo is made up of the shutter speedthe openingand ISO Sensitivity camera settings? Your camera will have an auto mode that automatically sets all of this for you, but go beyond that and you’ll have more control over how your images look.

To help you understand how these settings affect your image and why it’s important to know what they do, we’ll look at each setting individually, so that we can clearly explain what changes the settings make. It will also be useful for you to learn how these changes affect the image you get and to play around with your camera to see the effect for yourself.

On auto settings, the camera will adjust all of this for you for a properly exposed photo, but if you adjust exposure compensation or the camera gets it wrong, you may end up with an underexposed photo (too dark) or overexposed (too bright) photo.

Examples of exposure, from -1EV (underexposed) to +1EV (overexposed)

Exposure examples, from -1EV (underexposed) to +1EV (overexposed), EV stands for Exposure Value (in Photography)

The camera has an automatic “metering” mode, and this is what it uses to determine the correct exposure for the scene. There are a number of different metering modes, and these determine where the camera looks when it needs to determine the correct exposure. We will see these options later in this article.

But first we’ll look at the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO speed settings, because it’s useful to know what changing these settings affects.

What is shutter speed? Understanding Shutter Speeds

Shutter speed is the length of time the shutter is open, allowing the camera to collect light from the scene. If you use a long exposure, say 2 seconds, more light will get to the camera, but there will also be the possibility of blurring. A shorter exposure, for example 1/30th of a second, often displayed in 1/30s (or just 1/30), will reduce the shutter opening time and capture a shorter moment. You can check the exposure by pressing the shutter button on the camera halfway, if it is not already displayed on the screen.

The faster the shutter speed, the faster you can capture the subject and reduce the chance of blurring. For example, if something is moving fast, you can use a shutter speed of 1/500 or 1/1000.

A slow, left shutter speed will blur any motion, while a fast shutter speed will freeze any motion.

A slow shutter speed (left) will blur any motion, while a fast shutter speed (right) will freeze any motion.

To access the shutter speed setting, you will find that your camera should have S priority for Shutter, or a Tv (Time-value) on Canon/Pentax. If you select this option, try changing the shutter speed using the camera dials to see the effect when taking photos. The camera should automatically support the aperture and ISO speed.

What is the opening? Understand the opening

The aperture is inside the lens and is made up of ‘aperture’ or ‘diaphragm’ blades that open and close in order to adjust the amount of light that passes through the lens. Just like your own eyes, when it is dark your pupils will enlarge to help you see better, and in sunny conditions your pupils will constrict and become smaller.

The aperture value is displayed as a number preceded by the letter f or f/, for example f1.4 or f/2.8.

Aperture settings, showing lens aperture at different apertures

Aperture settings, showing lens aperture at different apertures

The larger the aperture, the more light can pass through the lens to the camera sensor. A larger aperture will have a smaller number, like f/1.4 or f/1.8, or f/2.8.

The smaller the aperture, the less light can pass through the lens to the camera sensor. A smaller aperture will have a larger number, such as f/5.6, f/8, f/11, or f/16.

There’s also another interesting thing that happens when you adjust the aperture. It also affects how much of the scene or subject is in focus, with a larger aperture, such as f/1.4 showing a smaller focus area, while a smaller aperture aperture, such as f/ 16 showing larger focus area.

This is called depth of field, but it can also be called depth of field, which is the area of ​​an image that is in focus.

Changing the aperture affects the amount of focus in the image

Changing the aperture affects the amount of focus in the image

Note that with an open aperture, F1.7, the background is blurred, and when the aperture is closed, the background becomes brighter at F4, then even brighter at F8, as depth of field increases. The focal point is on the wooden rabbit in the foreground in each photo.

You can set your camera to A for aperture priority or Av, then you can adjust the lens aperture, while the camera adjusts all the other settings for you. You will notice that to compensate for a brighter or darker view, the camera has to adjust the shutter speeds and ISO. Play around and see how it affects your images.

What is ISO speed? Understanding ISO

Traditionally, the ISO speed rating came from 35mm film, the higher the ISO rating, the more sensitive the film was to light. So if you are shooting in sunny conditions you will be using ISO100 film and not using it indoors or in low light conditions without using the camera flash.

Digital cameras these days can change the ISO speed instantly, whenever needed, to make the camera (effectively) more sensitive to light, so you can use ISO100 or ISO200 when shooting underwater. outdoors in sunny conditions, or using a higher ISO speed, such as ISO800 or ISO1600 when shooting indoors or in low light conditions.

If you are taking photos and your images are too dark, you may need to increase the ISO speed, or conversely, if your images are too bright, then you may need to decrease the ISO speed.

ISO noise settings and examples with low noise at lower ISO speed and more noise at high ISO speed

ISO noise settings and examples with low noise at lower ISO speed and more noise at high ISO speed

ISO200 (1/13s, f6.3) – alongside ISO25600 (1/1600s, f/6.3) – Note that in the higher ISO speed image, at ISO25600 there is more noise and grain in image (lots of dots), and it affects image quality with image elements covered in dots, making it harder to see image details. It can also make the color duller and some of the color completely gone.

In P or Program mode, you can adjust the ISO speed once you take the camera out of auto ISO, and it will allow you to use a faster shutter speed or a smaller aperture. Play around with your camera’s different ISO speeds and you’ll see how shutter speed and aperture change, and pay attention to how your camera handles higher ISO speeds, as you may find that, depending on your camera, you might want to avoid some of the higher ISO speeds.

What are metering modes on a camera? Measurement modes explained:

Depending on your camera brand, the different metering modes available may have different names, but for the majority of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, there are three main metering modes available. The different modes available depend on the area the camera is looking at when metering the scene to determine the correct exposure for your photo. In full manual mode, the camera will let you know if the image is underexposed or overexposed.

The three main metering modes available on most cameras, multi-zone, center-weighted, spot

The three main metering modes available on most cameras, multi-zone, center-weighted, spot

The main measurement modes:

  • Multizone – (Evaluative, Matrix, ESP, Multi-zone) This looks at the whole scene and tries to adjust the exposure so that the majority of the scene is correctly exposed.
  • Center-weighted – or center-weighted average, this looks at the whole scene, with priority on the center of the image.
  • Spot metering – this tells the camera that you want to look at a specific area (spot) of the image to determine the exposure.

Despite what different camera companies call these options, they all tend to use the same or very similar icons to display the selected metering mode, so you should be able to find similar icons on your camera. For more details on the different metering modes, you can read more here.

Now that you know what exposure, shutter speeds, aperture, ISO speeds, and metering mean, it’s time to experiment with all of these different settings, until you’ve mastered them. Don’t worry if you mess up, you can always go back to the different shooting modes and adjust the settings as needed.

The more familiar you become with your camera and the various settings, the easier it will be to change the settings when needed and have the right settings to take your next brilliant shot!


See you next week for the next article in the series of AP Improve your photography series – in partnership with BPM.

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